Most of the rubber around the windows and roof remained intact on inspection in the morning! No sign of the pesky Kea. The sight of a partially clothed mad man with head torch blazing and frying pan and spoon at the ready must have done the trick.
A quick breakfast later and we were off again, continuing down SH94 on our way to Milford Sound. The road was fairly flat and the valley, expansive as it followed Eglinton River, going past places like “Mistake Creek” and “Cascade Creek”.
Diving into the forest every now and again, we slowly got more excited as forest gave way to Lake Gunn (They did freedom camping there, Dam!) Then Lake Fergus with its amazing blue tones.
Continuing on up and up and up into the mountains we came to the Homer Tunnel.
This engineering feat is carved through the living rock and covers 1270m. The tunnel is also quite steep and very dark….. and ONE WAY only! Scary. Traffic lights control the traffic from one side to the other. We heard afterwards, that there is an annual naked run up through the tunnel….. WHY????
Immediately upon exiting the tunnel, we all played follow-my-leader behind a coach as hairpin after hairpin bends and steep roads all contributed to the slow passage and strong smell of brake pads protesting mightily.
You drop quickly from the heady heights of the Homer Tunnel at 945m above Sea level, down to the sound itself, in about 10 minutes, so by this stage, one needs a break. Welcome to “The Chasm”, a natural cascade of water through the rock and a rest place just before Milford Sound…. It is also home to half the Chinese Population, and it was teeming with them… and loads of Kea birds…..
We decided to continue on!
We arrived at Milford Sound Lodge by about midday. Now, if you are considering taking the RV down to the Sound, may we suggest that you book ahead of time? The Lodge is the only place to overnight here. No Freedom Camping allowed anywhere. You have been warned.
Also, and a strange point, but there IS a petrol pump facility in Milford Sound, in case you have read reports that say that there aren’t any. I think that these reports are written by the inhabitants of Te Anau to scare you into thinking you won’t make it back to Te Anau on one tank. Not true.
Once we had checked in, we drove down into Milford itself to see what everyone had been screaming about for us to see. The Sound and the Mountains themselves……….
If you can picture a place so vast that it is not possible to put a scale to things, and then note that this lack of scale echoes from canyon to canyon and from ripple to ripple, you will be some way to picturing just how BIG and beautiful Milford Sound is.
“Oh yes. That waterfall over there is 300m tall!”
“What you see over there, is actually 9km away!”
“That little cliff over there, is actually 3 times the size of the Eiffel Tower!”
AND SO ON.
These comments filtered through our minds as we tried to grasp the enormity of the area and, OH My, how beautiful it is.
The mountains crash straight down into the Sound, carved through 3 glacial periods, into their current forms. One of the captains on one of the cruise boats told us that Milford Sound had been hidden for many many yeas from the sea adventurers as one can’t see it from the Tasman Sea and, should you stumble across it by accident, the water is too deep for the old boats to have been able to set anchor. At 400m vertical depth under the keel, within a few short metres of the mountains, you can understand why it took a long time to settle here. Amazing!
When we arrived there, we had perfect blue skies, so, as we were told that Milford Sound is overcast 2 days in 3, we decided to take a tour boat cruise up the Sound, into the Tasman Sea and back, to enjoy the experience. And what an experience!
Pushing down the Sound towards the Tasman Sea, sometimes drifting within a few metres of the vertical rock faces, and then trying to imagine 3 Eiffel towers stacked one on top of another, took our breathe away.
Mitre Peak is almost 1700m straight up.
We came to one of the waterfalls, The Fairy Falls, and drove almost straight into the rock face so we could see the torrent up close and personal. Wow! Excellent boat skills by the captain.
Then off slowly up towards the opening into the Tasman Sea, before turning back and traversing the east coast, passing Stirling Falls,
sun-bathing seals and super large dolphins, even larger, if that were possible, than those we had seen in the Bay of Islands so many days ago. They too took delight in jumping over the wake the boat made.
The journey, though, sadly came to an end and we disembarked and went over to the “Blue Duck” restaurant (Only restaurant in Milford) for a coffee and a recap. Such a beautiful place, No wonder Rudyard Kipling called it “The 8th Wonder of the World”
The skies stayed calm all day and into the night, so the stars this time, with no interference from the full moon, were amazing to see. Unfortunately I had no time lapse camera with me, so wasn’t able to capture this “even vaster vastness” of space, compared to the vastness we had seen here at Milford Sound.
Just a quiet, grateful moment, thanking God for this opportunity to share in His creation….